Dear friends, Christ is Risen!
I have enjoyed a much needed break, but I could not fully forget about the blog and a few current events. Many of you have asked me for my reaction to the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis but at the time I decided not to comment about it. The time just did not feel right and I was not ready for it. However, during this break my mind naturally returned to spiritual matters and I decided that it was now or never, if I did not tackle the spiritual issues surrounding this meeting, I would never have the time or energy to do that later. So I wrote the article below. You will see that it does not really focus on this meeting at all, being as it is, just the small tip of a much bigger iceberg. I decided to tackle if not the entire iceberg, then at least a good chunk of it. I hope that at least some of you will find some merit in this. To the others I will just say not to worry. This is probably a one-off exercise and the blog will now return to its normal topics.
Hugs and cheers,
A negative view of Christianity and religion in general
We live in a post-Christian society, not only because truly religious Christians are now a small minority, but also because culturally and spiritually our society has almost completely severed any links it once had with the original Christianity of the early Church. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “God created man in His image and man returned Him the favor“. This aphorism is so good that it was attributed to Mark Twain, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russel, Frank Wedekind and Voltaire. I think that this sentence contains the best overall summary of what Christianity is in the 21st century. What I want to do today, is to express a few negative views about Christianity and about religion in general. When I say “negative”, I don’t mean to say bad things about it, but rather to say what it is *not*. Believe it or not, this is an ancient form of theological discourse called “apophatic” or “negative theology” (as opposed to “cataphatic” or “positive theology”) – a theology which rather than describing what God is, attempts to describe Him by saying what He is not. What I want to do is to apply the same methodology to the concept of religion in general and to Christianity in particular, and describe what it is not. I won’t go into lofty and abstract theological issues though, but keep is as simple and straightforward as I can.
Of course, by stating what it is not, I do imply that what Christianity was/is is something objective and not just the product of a social consensus or the opinion of a majority of people, but something which can be described, but not redefined or shaped by an opinion. In other words, there was/is a “True Christianity” which is “true” in the Slavonic understanding of the word Istina or the Hebrew Emet (see here for an explanation of “truth according to content”). However, it is not my purpose today to describe in positively, if only because that is something infinitely more complex and subtle than to describe what it is *not*.
The three “levels of religious satisfaction”
One of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, Father Lev Lebedev, used to say that people find three kind of “satisfactions” when they go to church: a spiritual level, an psychological level and an emotional level. What he meant is that different people attend religious services for different reasons – some seek a prayerful interaction with God, others find solace from their suffering while others feel uplifted by the aesthetic beauty of the religious ceremony itself. Father Lev correctly stated that ideally one ought to experience all of these different levels at the same time because they are complementary and not mutually exclusive. Father Lev was describing what he observed as a cleric of the Orthodox Church in Russia in the 1980s and 1990s and I think that this somewhat limited his view of the matter. What I would like to attempt now is to describe other reasons which make people identify themselves as Christians/Orthodox and which have absolutely nothing to do with real religion, Christianity or Orthodoxy.
Religions as basis for ethical values
A lot of people nowadays generally approve of the so-called “Christian values” which are basically the Ten Commandments and the various ethical guidelines derived from them: not to steal, not to lie, to be kind to others, to be truthful, to live a life of modesty, to be faithful, etc. These are the folks who will say that religion plays a positive moral and educational role in society, that a non-religious society will inevitably lose a sense of right and wrong, that high ideals are needed to live a worthy life. The “need” for that kind of religion is simple: as Dostoevsky said “if there is no God all is permissible” – there is simply no logical way to define “right” and “wrong” unless you can “peg” these concepts to an absolute, transcendental source/origin of your definition. Stealing is not logically inherently bad – it is bad because “God said so”. I think of this as the “utilitarian God”: we invent ourselves a “God” who just so happens to tell us to live according to the principles we like. You think I am exaggerating? Okay, let me give you a simple example: think of all the folks who condemn Islam for allowing the death penalty for certain actions and who say “how can a religion practice capital punishment? This is so inhuman – I don’t accept that”. Notice that these people never ask themselves a simple and basic question: what if God happens to approve of the death penalty? That, they don’t care about. These people don’t reject Islam because they don’t believe that there is a God or because they don’t believe that Mohamed is His prophet – they reject Islam because they don’t like what Islam teaches, irrespective of the existence of God or whether Mohamed was, or was not, His prophet. These are the same kind of folks who reject Latin Christianity for not allowing divorce or birth control: they simply reject any religion whose teachings do not coincide with their own – and to hell (pun intended) with any objective reality. These are exactly the kind of people who “create” themselves a “God” in their own image.
Religion as a form of national self-definition
Do you know the difference between a Serb, a Croat and a “Bosniac” (i.e, a Muslim from Bosnia)? Their religion. That is not to say that there are no other differences between these south Slavs or that you cannot be a Serb, a Croat or a “Bosniac” and an atheist or, say, a Buddhist. But the root cause, the core of the historical development of differences between these three groups most definitely originates in the fact that Croats are Latins (i.e, “Roman Catholics”), the Serbs Orthodox Christians and the “Bosniacs” Muslims.
Remember that nationalism is really a 19th century West European invention and that in most of mankind’s history people defined themselves according to their place of birth (in a local sense, village, town), according to their allegiance to a leader (Emperor, feudal lord, tribal leader, etc.) and, sometimes, according to their religion. For example, the Ottoman Empire recognized the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople as the “head of the Roman nation” (rum millet) or “millet bashi” as an ethnarch whose authority extended over all the Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire regardless of their ethnic or linguistic affiliations. You could be Armenian, Persian, Arab or Serb – if you were Orthodox the “millet bashi” spoke for you and was your leader.
As for the much-suffering Gagauz people (Turkic Orthodox Christians), they were originally considered as “Greeks” by the Turks only to be thought of as “Turks” by many Greeks in the 19th century.
Another example: in the Russian Empire, Karaites were not considered as Jews. In fact, the Russian Empire never discriminated between people on the basis of what we today would call their “ethnicity” but defined their “nationality” on the basis of their religion. In fact, many Russian Czars were mostly of German “ethnic” stock.
Today Empires are gone, but from Ulster, to Bosnia and even to Russia, religion has now become a form of national identity: “I am Orthodox because I am Russian” or “I am a Muslim because I am a Kazakh”. My personal reaction to this kind of “religious patriotism” is that these people really worship themselves. Think of it: any real religion should, in theory, be universalistic: if we are all the creatures of the same Creator and children of the same Father, then we are all brothers and sisters and our ethnic, cultural, linguistic or regional idiosyncrasies should be completely irrelevant to the profound spiritual bond attaching us all to each other.
This is exactly what Malcolm X saw after his pilgrimage to Mecca where traditional Islam made him abandon all his racist views about “blue eyed White devils” and all the rest of the nonsense preached by the pseudo-Islamic sect of the “Nation of Islam” and Elijah Muhammad.
This is also why German Nazis could not accept the unambiguous teaching of the New Testament about Jews: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28); For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (Gal 5:6); Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God (1 Cor 7:19); For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor; 12 :13)
The sad but also inevitable reality is that in every single case of “religious nationalism” religion is always subservient to nationalism and religion is really an ancillary means towards a much more important nationalistic goal: to proclaim some kind of “imprimatur from God” to a rabid form of nationalism and, really, self-worship. As if God was busy with, or even interested in, our petty nationalistic agenda!
One wonderful Ukrainian Orthodox priest once told me “how can I think of nationalist issues when the angels are standing next to me in the altar!” And he was absolutely right of course. Religious nationalists are also the kind of people who “create” themselves a “God” in their own image.
Religion as an ideological tool of statecraft
The two forms of “utilitarian religion” above are often combined into one particularly insidious form of pseudo-religion which sees the people in power using religion as an instrument to foster patriotism and social responsibility.
Sadly, there is a lot of that in modern Russia. Communism, at least in its Soviet form has been pretty much rejected, at least by most people, and Capitalism’s reputation is now roadkill in modern Russia. Oh sure, some Communist/Socialist ideals are still very much respected and proclaimed and most Russians want to have the opportunity to have their own business and make good money. But neither Communism nor Capitalism can play the role which Orthodoxy played in Russia before the 17th century or the Marxist ideology played during the Soviet era. This is why you very often will see Russian politicians say that “Russia needs a national idea”. This is not a spiritual vacuum, but an ideologicalone and, sadly, the “official” Russian Orthodox Church (aka the “Moscow Patriarchate”) has been more than willing to fill this idealogical vacuum. As a result, political officers have often been replaced by priests, official ceremonies now almost always involve a clergyman and the “Patriarch” is now playing a very important political role. In many ways this has been a very positive development because this gives the Russian people a possibility to explore their own, individual, feelings and interest towards religion in general and Orthodoxy specifically, but this also has an extremely deleterious effect on the millions of potential Orthodox Christians who are turned away from this form of Orthodoxy because its obvious subservience to the State, its agenda and policies. You might say that there is no reason for the Moscow Patriarchate not to support Putin, and I would agree but, alas, this is also what the Moscow Patriarchate did under Eltsin and even the Soviet leaders.
As a result, the situation of Orthodox Christianity in Russia is very similar to the one of Latin Christianity in South America: real piety is mostly confined to the parish level while everything above this level is permeated, at various degrees, by politics and cynicism. As I have already described in a past article, by the late 1920s Russian Orthodoxy was split into at least 4 major branches (to which one could also add several Old Rite denominations) and the only reason why the branch which is currently considered as “official” was chosen (by the state and during the Soviet era!) as the “right one” is that it was absolutely and 100% loyal to the Soviet state just as it is now loyal to the new Russian state. Yes, total subservience to a secular state power as a “criterion of Orthodoxy” is, sadly, the only reason why the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized as the “official” Orthodox Church today.
I would note that this is not just a Russian problem – it is exactly the same in many other officially “Orthodox” countries, especially in eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria). By the way, we can also observe the same phenomenon in much of the Muslim world were political regimes get to decide which branch of Islam is considered as “correct” and which one out to be confined to jails. And just as in the Orthodox Church, we see “official” Islamic institution issue exactly the kind of fatwas which the state needs in support of its policies.
Of course, none of the above has anything to do with Christ or Mohammed and, furthermore, none of the above has anything to do with religion as such. This is just a typical manifestation of religion as a tool of statecraft which Marx and Lenin had identified a long time ago. Where Marx and Lenin were, of course, wrong is when they said that all religions must be like that, they religions are inherently a tool of political control. The history of Orthodoxy and Islam are both full of examples of Bishops and Sheikhs and even entire religious hierarchies “rendering unto to Cesar what belongs to God” and “serving two masters“. But you will also find amazing examples in Orthodoxy and Islam where religious leaders openly and courageously defied the worldly powers (I think of Patriarch Hermogen of Moscow or Husayn ibn Ali).
This is nothing new and has nothing to do with religion: it is a profoundly human phenomenon which can be found throughout history and in every place where there is power. Power does indeed corrupt, and it also corrupts religious leaders.
In the West, this tendency to replace a mystical Christianity with a form of “sacralized secular domination” began almost immediately after the fall of Rome and the Western Roman Empire (in 476 AD) and the subsequent separation of Frankish-controlled Rome from the rest of the Roman Christian world (in 1054) which outlived Rome by a full millennium (until 1453 exactly). In 1075 already the Papacy adopted an amazing document which became known as the Dictatus Papae (or Papal Dictation) and which contained 27 principles which had never ever been part of the teachings of the Early Church and the Church Fathers. Here is the full list: (source)
- That the Roman church was founded by God alone.
- That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal.
- That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
- That, in a council his legate, even if a lower grade, is above all bishops, and can pass sentence of deposition against them.
- That the pope may depose the absent.
- That, among other things, we ought not to remain in the same house with those excommunicated by him.
- That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
- That he alone may use the imperial insignia.
- That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet.
- That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.
- That this title [Pope] is unique in the world.
- That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.
- That he may be permitted to transfer bishops if need be.
- That he has power to ordain a clerk of any church he may wish.
- That he who is ordained by him may preside over another church, but may not hold a subordinate position; and that such a one may not receive a higher grade from any bishop.
- That no synod shall be called a general one without his order.
- That no chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.
- That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it.
- That he himself may be judged by no one.
- That no one shall dare to condemn one who appeals to the apostolic chair.
- That to the latter should be referred the more important cases of every church.
- That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.
- That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made holy by the merits of St. Peter; St. Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As is contained in the decrees of St. Symmachus the pope.
- That, by his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.
- That he may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.
- That he who is not at peace with the Roman church shall not be considered catholic.
- That he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.
Every one of these new rules is in total and categorical contradiction with the preceding 1000 year long history of the Church which used to be called “Catholic” because not only of its universal nature, but because it was based on counciliar (all-incuding) meetings were all bishops were considered equal and no authority was recognized as superior to such a council of bishops.
Just two decades after cutting itself off from the Christian world, in 1054, the Pope declared himself some kind of “super-absolute-bishop”, in 1075, something unheard of before, and then soon thereafter, in 1096, the Papacy declared its first ‘crusade’. Does anybody really think that this is a coincidence?
And lest anybody believe that this is a fluke and that Pope Gregory VII was just one insane person, I would add here that he was Gregory VII was beatified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII so this is very, very “official” stuff, not just the lunatic ravings of a single megalomaniac. This is why Fedor Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor has the audacity to silence Christ Himself and say to Him “Thou hast no right to add one syllable to that which was already uttered by Thee before“: because the Papacy has always considered itself above God (and His Church).
This is no different than the no less megalomaniacal claim of Pharisaic Talmudism (aka “Orthodox Judaism” in official modern parlance) that a rabbi can “argue with God“, win the debate even rule over Him and “fix his Creation” and rule over Him! It is really no surprise that Phariseic Talmudism eventually degenerated to the crude religion of “Holocaustism” overt self-worship of the Kabbalstic concept of “collective Messiah“.
I think I can already hear the militant secularists proclaiming that all this is typical of the “God delusion“, that religion is a psychopathology which inevitably produces the kind of horrors I have described above. To them I would just say that for all their real crimes, religions still favorably compare to modern secular and putatively “enlightened” ideologies (from the Masonic French Revolution. to Marxists class warfare, to modern Capitalism) whose “atrocity scorecard” goes in the hundreds of millions. Those who believe that religions cause atrocities simply fail to understand that religions always bring people together and that people always behave in the violent way, including religious people. What makes religions different is that they at least offer a rationale to renounce violence (our common brotherhood in God) and an explanation for our tendency to use violence (our fallen nature). Yes, religions have been used by states to justify atrocities, but that use of religion is, of course, a mis-use of religion clearly condemned by Christ (render unto Cesar…). However, what has made religions so susceptible to such misuse has been their own gradual departure from what a real religion ought to be into a man-made product filled with all the inherent sins and mistakes of mankind.
The modern “ecumenism” of pseudo-religions
In the beginning of this article I did say that I would not discuss what Christianity (and religions in general) really is and that I would only describe what it is not. Still, at the very least, I have to mention a few key characteristics of early Christianity which can still be found in various parts of the modern Orthodox world and which set it apart from the rest of the so-called “Christian world”. What I would like to do next is to show what makes modern religions so profoundly similar to each other and what makes early Christianity so different from modern religions.
In a recent article for the Unz Review Israel Shamir wrote the following:
In my eyes, Catholic Church is the Church of the West, while the Orthodox Church is the Church of the East. Each church has its own garden to tend, its own traditions and ways. The East likes its priests bearded, the West prefers them shaved. The East likes them married, the West likes them married to the church. The East has no single head and spiritual leader: every national church is equal to its sister-church. The West has the Pope. The East takes for Eucharist its leavened bread mixed with wine, the West prefers unleavened bread for all, with wine for the clergy only. Such differences are normal and do not prevent the churches’ rapprochement (…) The biggest theological difference is filioque, which is so obscure that few worshippers understand or care.
Shamir, who was writing in the wake of the meeting between the Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill is absolutely correct: this minimal list of rather superficial “differences” is pretty much all that separates the modern and official types of Orthodoxy and Latin Christianity embodied by these two clerics. But if the meeting had taken place not between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill but, say, the Abbot of the Esphigmenou monastery on Mount Athos or the Rector of the The International Seminary of Saint Pius X in Ecône, Switzerland, the list of differences between the two religions would have been far more longer and substantive. It would have included a long list of irreconcilable dogmatic differences (the doxa, including the very concept of a super-bishop like the Pope) and an equally long and substantive list of differences in which Orthodox and Latin Christians live their faith on a daily basis (the praxis).
While in the recent pasts some Orthodox and Latin clerics have developed what could be called the “theology of the two lungs” which declares that the Orthodox Church and the Papacy are the “two lungs” of the Church (which is the theandric Body of Christ), the reality is that Orthodox and Latin ecclesiologies (the teaching about the nature of the Church) have been mutually exclusive at least since the 11th century and until the 20th century. Believe it or not, but even “traditionalist” (pre Vatican II) Latins are, from the point of view of traditional (early Church compatible) Orthodoxy heretics who have engaged in over one thousands years of innovations and departure from the faith “which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian” (St. Athanasios).
[Sidebar: when discussing theological topics “heretic” is not an insult but refers simply to any person who has made a “different choice” from the teaching of the Church. A “heresy” is thus just a “choice” of something different. This can be contrasted with, for example, the word “schismatic” who is a person creating a rift/division in a religious organization but without proclaiming any different teaching or dogma. By the way, “dogma” simply means “belief” in the sense of “accepted theological tenet”. Finally, the word canon simple means a rule, a measure, a standard. Nowadays these words elicit images of pyres, autodaf és, witch-hunts, etc, but in reality these are absolutely necessary concepts to understand even the basics of Christian thought.]
If from a traditional Orthodox point of view Latins are heretics, then from the traditional Latin view the Orthodox are schismatics who have rebelled against the authority of the Pope and thereby cut themselves off the True Church entirely. Of course, nowadays, it is highly politically incorrect to say these thing that is why they are replaced by various ceremonies and meetings where the heads of the “official” (i.e. state supported) Orthodox and Latin churches hugs and kiss each other, exchanges presents and speak of unity. From the point of view of traditional (in the sense of “historical”) Orthodoxy and Papacy such displays of mutual affection are not only ridiculous, but they are highly immoral because they completely obfuscate the real and substantive reasons for the 1000 year long separation between the two denominations (what would Saint Nicholas of Myra have to say to such public hugging?!).
Just to give you a little taste of what kind of language the original Church used in describing interactions with heretics, let me quote from a canon of the Quinisextine Ecumenical Council (691), which both the Latin and Orthodox Churches fully recognized as authoritative, about marriage between Christians and heretics:
“An Orthodox (in the sense of “right believing” – the Saker ) man is not permitted to marry an heretical woman, nor is an Orthodox woman to be joined to an heretical man. But if anything of this kind appear to have been done by any, we require them to consider the marriage null, and that the marriage be dissolved. For it is not fitting to mingle together what should not be mingled, nor is it right that the sheep be joined with the wolf, nor the lot of “sinners with the portion of Christ!“ (Canon LXXII)
Still feel like kissing and hugging? Let me repeat here that officially both Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis have never repudiated the Quinisextine Ecumenical Council (at least not yet!). Instead, they just don’t talk about such “minor and obscure” canons any more.
Are you shocked by this kind of language?
I can give you an even more shocking example.
All Christians are banned, by no less than the Holy Apostles themselves, to pray with anybody who does not fully and totally share the same exact faith as they do. Yup, both Latins and Orthodox are categorically banned from praying with each other, even in their private homes! Here is the exact quote:
Canon 10 of the Holy Apostles: “If one who is not in communion prays together, even at home, let him be excommunicated”.
And what about these canons:
Canon 45 of the Holy Apostles: “A Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon that only prays together with heretics, should be excommunicated; if he has permitted them to perform anything as Clergymen, let him be defrocked.”
Canon 64 of the Holy Apostles: “If a Clergyman or a Layman should enter a Jewish synagogue, or pray with heretics, let him be excommunicated and defrocked.”
Yes, Christians are banned from ever entering a synagogue which, of course, both the Latin Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow have done – they have even greeted the Judaics as “brothers” and the Pope went as far as to declare that they both are awaiting the return of the same Messiah!
Again, I fully understand that somebody would reject Christianity because such canons would offend his/her feelings, but what I don’t understand is how those who think of themselves as Christians can either reject or ignore them. After all, these are canons handed down from the Apostles themselves, canons which have been fully endorsed by the entire Christian Church for 2000+ years and which have never been denounced by either the Orthodox or the Latins (for a full list and interpretation of Apostolic canons see here).
[Sidebar: there is nothing as dangerous as when a novice in the subtle and often paradoxical theological matters grabs a book of canons and begins reading into it all sorts of prescriptions as to how things ought be to done. Canons are not dogmas, and what is important in them is not the letter, but the spirit. Furthermore, some canons have been deliberately set aside and that is exactly how this should be in a living Church which is not just a collection of old rules. I quote these canons solely to illustrate the language and spirit in which, they were written and to contrast them to the sugary language used in modern pseudo-theological declarations].
Those shocked by what might (mistakenly) appear as the intolerance contained in the examples I give above ought to consider a simple fact: unlike Pharisaic Talmudism (the religion of Maimonides, Karo and Luria, aka modern “Judaism”) the spiritual roots of Christianity are truly in the religion of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the ancient faith of the Jewish people before Christ and whose foremost Commandment is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me“. Replace the word “god” with the word “truth” (two aspects of the same reality, really) and you immediately get a sense of where the apparent “intolerance” of Christianity comes from. For example, the ban on marrying a heretic, even a Christian heretic, is a direct continuation of the ban for Jews taking spouses from other ethnicities. While Pharisaic Talmudism added a racist interpretation for this ban, the traditional Jewish and Christian ban is based on purely spiritual reasons: to jealously preserve the purity of the faith. And this is precisely why the LXXII Canon quoted above goes on to say:
But if any who up to this time are unbelievers and are not yet numbered in the flock of the orthodox have contracted lawful marriage between themselves, and if then, one choosing the right and coming to the light of truth and the other remaining still detained by the bond of error and not willing to behold with steady eye the divine rays, the unbelieving woman is pleased to cohabit with the believing man, or the unbelieving man with the believing woman, let them not be separated, according to the divine Apostle, “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by her husband.”
In that case the Church does not speak of a “sheep be joined with the wolf” but of one spouse “sanctifying” the other. To sum this all up I would say that (the real, original) Judaism and Orthodox Christianity (the latter being a continuation of the former) place an immense emphasis on the Truth, on never placing the True and the False on the same level, on never obfuscating the differences between to different teachings.
In contrast, most modern Christian denominations couldn’t care less about any truth, be it historical, dogmatic or even factual.
[Sidebar: by ‘Truth” I mean something very specific. My spiritual father recently defined it as such “Truth is not a relative abstract but a cognitive monument formed by revealed absolutes” and that is as good a definition has I have ever seen]
I even believe that most modern Christian denominations have simply given up on the very concept of “truth” altogether. Their sole concern is expediency, really, some vague idea of “practical” as opposed to what is “theoretical”, such as any discussion of what the truth might be.
For example, modern Ecumenists will always proclaim that they believe in the same God, the same Trinity, the same Mother of God and that they therefore “recognize the validity of the Mysteries (called “Sacraments” in the West) of the other Ecumenists. Contrast that with the difference between the Orthodox and the Gnostics and Arians which could be summed up in two words which differ from each other only by, literally, a tiny letter iota: “homousios” versus “hom iousios” (the former meaning “of the same substance” and the latter “of a similar substance”). Early Christians died because of this “tiny” difference! You can imagine what they would say if the saw Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis hugging each other and calling each other “brothers in the Christian faith“! Again, the point is not to discuss the difference between “same” and “similar” substances, but to contrast the difference in approach to issues of faith between early Christians and modern “official” religious leaders.
[Sidebar: this uniquely Christian form of “intolerance” was really bewildering to the pagan Romans who were far more similar to our modern Ecumenists. Most people don’t realize that pagan Romans never asked Christians to give up their faith. Neither did they want to force them to pray only to the Roman gods. “All” they wanted is for the Christians to also “honor” the Romans God by bringing them a small sacrifice, sometimes as small as just adding a few coals to the fire of a Roman god. And yet, the early Christians stubbornly refused such seemingly “small” gestures which they viewed as an apostasy because it equated false god with the One Real God. They chose horrible tortures and death rather than even give the external impression that they accepted the reality of Roman gods. Even those Christians who did not accept to offer a sacrifice to Roman god but who obtained a certificate stating that they had done so were referred to as “libellatici” (“certificate holders”) and considered as “lapsed” from the Church!]
So yes, it is true that modern Christians do not care about “obscure theological matters” and that is precisely what makes them so different from the True Christians of the early Church and those Orthodox Christians today who still hold the traditions “which have been passed on to them “whether by word or in writing” (2 Thes 2:15) and who still remember that even if “an angel from heaven” would preach a “different gospel” to them that they should reject him as “accursed” (Gal 1:8).
While for original Christians “obscure theological matters” were important enough to be tortured to death for, for modern “post-Christian Christians” they basically irrelevant. They have long forgotten the warning from God “because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit thee out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16) and all they care for is for the external unity of Christian denomination, nevermind if they hold mutually exclusive theological views or even, no theological views at all like the amazing Unitarian Universalists (aka the “youyoohs”) who embody syncretism lead to its logical conclusion.
The ethos of YOLO and DILLIGAF
At the end of the day, all these modern “decaf denominations” which have really done away with “intolerance” and “zealotry” result in a society were nobody gives a damn anymore, a society where the anti-spirituality of the ethos YOLO and DILLIGAF provide the basis for endless consumerism and general stupidification. This is the kind of anti-religion which the New World Order needs – a religion which would unite all of mankind into a single, vapid, shapeless mass serving the NWO and its 1% leaders by consuming, obeying and never asking a question, especially about what is or is not true. This is why the powers that be and the media put such an effort into promoting these “official” religions and why they constantly fawn over their leaders.
Think of it – does it not strike you as paradoxical that Christ said “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19) and yet the very same corporate media who serves the AngloZionist Empire and its planned New World Order also would give putatively “Christian” leaders the kind of coverage which normally goes to Rock stars?
When was the last time you ever heard one of those “superstar religious leaders” dare to denounce the modern rulers of our world as genocidal mass murderers they are or simply as hypocrites? But no, they meet with them and they hug, they smile, they kiss – each time a big love fest. Long gone is the time when Christian leaders had the courage to openly criticize an Empress (like Saint John Chrysostom) or dare to speak to a modern leader like Saint Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow, who refused to bless the Czar Ivan the Terrible after a church service and instead publicly castigated him in the following words:
I don’t recognize the Orthodox Czar any more. I don’t recognize him in his rule, O Lord! We are here bringing a sacrifice to God, while behind the alter the blood of innocent Christians is shed. Since the sun shines in the sky it has never been seen or heard that a pious Czar would outrage his own kingdom in such a way! Even if the most impious and pagan kingdoms there is the rule of law and the Truth, and there is mercy towards the people, but not in Russia! You are high on your throne, but there is an Almighty Judge above you. How will you face his judgment? Covered in the blood of the innocent, made deaf by the sound of their tortured screams? Even the stones under your feet are demanding vengeance O Lord! I am telling you as a pastor of souls – fear the One God!
Can you imagine an Orthodox Patriarch or a Latin Pope addressing, say, Obama with such words? And while Saint Philip was eventually tortured and murdered for his courage, modern Patriarchs and Popes incur no such risks. And yet they remain silent: they see nothing, hear nothing and, above all, say nothing. YOLO and DILLIGAF indeed…
This is why the Empire and the New World Order loves them.
Conclusion – what religion is not
I have tried to show the various reasons why I consider that most of what is called “religion” today is nothing of the kind. We live in a world of pseudo-everything, an “Empire of Illusions” to borrow Chris Hedges‘ expression. Original Christianity was an intensely mystical faith, one which centered on prayerand asceticism, which lead to an intensely personal experience of God and His uncreated energies was never detached from a zealous determination to preserve the purity of the original faith “which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers“. Early Christian monasticism is a perfect example of this “symphony” between individual spiritual struggles and public action in defense of the faith: while in normal times monastics lived in remote locations and deserts, they always left their secluded dwellings to enter the city and publicly defy and condemn any heresy. In modernist Orthodox denominations this kind of individual responsibility has been replaced with a “keep praying, shut up and mind your business” attitude (I have witnessed that myself in the Russian Orthodox Church as recently as the 2000-2007 time period).
Truly, the state of religions today is a sad one and you will not hear me defend it. Christ warned about that when he said “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mat 5:13). Yes, sure, the modernists currently control all the holy places (ancient churches and cathedrals), courtesy of secular police forces who are more than happy to evict “non-official” denominations from their places of worship, but this was also predicted by Christ when he spoke of the “abomination of desolation” in the “holy place” (Mat 24:15). There is probably nothing much we, the simple people, can do about that. But what we can do is remember the “real thing” and never allow the modern “verisimilitudinous Christianity” to take its place in our hearts and minds. Finally, we should always remember the words of Christ who told us that His Church was the “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat 16:18). This means that no matter how ugly and even horrible our situation becomes, God will never let His Church truly disappear from our world. Somewhere, maybe only in a small corner of our planet, His Church will always survive, faithful to the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers, unchanged by all the persecutions and slow motion descent into apostasy of the rest of the world. And if somebody really wants to find this Church, he/she will. This is also a promise Christ made to all of us: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mat 5:6).
PS: I fully realize that the above will deeply irritate and offend some readers. My views are the expression of a culture and a faith which is long gone. You can think of me as an “alien”, if you want. I have to warn you that the only criticism I really fear is if you told me that in the above I misrepresented the true and original mindset, or phronema, of the Church Fathers and of the Early Christians. If I am guilty of that, then I sincerely apologize and repent for it. But if I ruffled the feathers or rattled the cages of the modern “post-Christian Christians” and of the usual gang of religion-hating secularists, then so be it! This is not a popularity contest but simply my personal witness to my readers. Like in an AA meeting, you can take or leave any or all of it 🙂